01/23/2013 07:50 am ET

Writer Wednesday: How To Make Your Job Work For Your Writing

From Writer's Relief staff:

Most writers don’t make a profit from publishing their work—at least not enough to completely support themselves. So, inevitably, most writers who haven’t published best sellers are working day jobs. And that begs the question: What do you do when the writing bug bites at work?

5 Ways To Keep Your Creativity Alive At Work

1. Use your commute to your advantage. If you usually drive to work, try to stay observant of the things going on around you (while paying attention to the road, of course). When stopped at red lights, scan your surroundings for anything interesting. What are the drivers stopped next to you doing? What are the pedestrians doing? What signs and graffiti do you see? Take note of your surroundings, either with your fantastic memory or with a digital recorder beside you (we’re sure there’s an app for that). And if you use public transportation to get to work and have your eyes and hands free, why not do some actual writing? Take that opportunity each morning to spend some quality time with your muse.

2. Store a small notepad in your desk or cubicle. Inconspicuously jot down overheard dialogue, notes for stories, or lines of poetry. Be sure to make these notes quickly so as not to draw too much attention from your superiors; you can always flesh things out in greater detail on your lunch break or after work.

3. Type out notes on your smart phone. If you work in an environment where you won’t get in trouble for being seen on your phone, you can type your creative writing ideas straight into your personal phone. That way, if you prefer to write electronically, you don’t have to transfer so many paper notes to your computer later.

4. Keep a draft open in your work email. Rather than keeping your personal email open, which could be misconstrued as skipping out on your work, keep a draft email open in your work email. That way, you’re only a click or two between work and your personal writing, which is safer for you and fairer to your employer. At the end of the day, just save the final draft for the next day or email it to yourself at home to work on during your own time.

5. Use your lunch break for more than lunch. Rather than taking a leisurely, and possibly unproductive, lunch break, use your time for writing. If you’re able, bring lunch with you so that you don’t have to take extra time to go out, order, eat, and return. This is especially useful if you have a particularly strict work environment and are unable to use any of the work-time ideas for fear of disciplinary action.

Just because writers often need day jobs to pay the bills, it doesn’t mean you have to ignore your creative impulses from 9:00 to 5:00. Stay observant, imaginative, and use our tips for noticing and recording your thoughts throughout the day. And you never know—maybe your next poem, short story, essay, or book will be inspired by your day job!

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